FORT WAYNE – In the end, Jacob Murphy laid his hands on the trophy first – which was both as it should have been, and an anatomical oddity if ever there was one.
After all, it was his foot that delivered the thing.
Murphy, Bishop Luers’ swift senior midfielder, got the second-ranked Knights started in the Class A Blackhawk Christian boys soccer sectional final with a laser to the top corner in the 13th minute, then finished off the gritty Heritage Patriots with two more goals as Luers won the title 3-0 Saturday night.
It was, according to Murphy, his second hat trick of the season, and it sent the Knights to the Garrett Regional for the second straight year, where they’ll face Canterbury.
He was on tonight, said Murphy’s coach, John Myers. He’s had some good goals all year. Key goals.
And Murphy himself?
My teammates helped me get through, he said, after handing off the sectional trophy to those same teammates. They played great balls for me, and I just tried to finish it.
Murphy scored two of his goals within two minutes of each other in the first half on virtually identical plays, outracing his defender on the outside and driving two perfectly timed balls past Heritage goalie Taylen Melcher.
He got the third on a penalty kick after being taken down in the box during the 61st minute.
After that, it was just a matter of controlling the midfield and playing tough in their own end for the Knights, who breezed past Heritage early in the season using a lineup heavily salted with reserves.
This time they faced a much tougher bunch Patriots whose backbone was Melcher, who kept things from getting totally out of hand with at least half-a-dozen clutch saves.
Oh, they’re much better, Myers said. Much improved. Their coach (Joel Bunnell) has done a really nice job with them.
And his own team?
Well, the halftime message was simple: Keep doing what you’re doing, only more of it.
We told them, Just stay dialed in,’ Myers said. We said we needed to defend the midfield better.
We weren’t really there in the first half; we were missing some easy plays. In the second half we decided we needed to stop that play in the midfield. Just defend the midfield better and keep the ball in their end.